Corona's Origins Dovetail With Mexican History in This Beautiful Stop-Motion Work of Art

Gael García Bernal narrates the story of 'the finest beer'

With help from agency Observatory, Corona has released "The History of La Cerveza Mas Fina," directed by Nicolas Ménard and starring Gael García Bernal. Inspired by "La Cerveza Mas Fina" ("the finest beer"), the phrase on Corona bottles, the piece explores quality and craft in both function and form. 

We start with Corona's birth in 1925, shortly after the Mexican revolution. Per the brand, it was founded by bakers who chose a clear glass bottle so everyone could see it was made with the finest ingredients. 

Some light Googling taught us the following: 

The founding of Corona—named for the sun's surrounding aura!—is sometimes attributed to German immigrants, or to Antonino Fernandez, a Spanish immigrant who allegedly joined the Grupo Modelo brewery as a warehouse employee. But it was 1949 when he emigrated, a good 24 years after Corona's birth. (To finish up about Fernandez, he died in 2016 at age 98—and allegedly made everyone from his old village a millionaire in his will. He didn't really.) 

But that is neither here nor there. In fact, the vagaries of this question are part of the video's importance. 

García Bernal kicks off by observing, "Only history can tell us what we're made of," setting the stage. By the time we've explored four chapters of history, he concludes, "History says that we are made of the finest, and the finest never stops."

Corona | The History of La Cerveza Más Fina

Like African Americans, Mexicans are commonly depicted with rather ugly stereotypes that trickle down to Mexican American communities, obscuring any sense of cultural or personal value. Corona itself was caught in at this intersection, when, in the '80s, a Heineken distributor in the U.S. spread rumors that Mexican workers were peeing into the bottles.

Even speculation about Corona's origin story reflect the insidious impact of racism: Maybe Corona was made by bakers; maybe it was made by immigrants. But the question of origins obscures the fact that it's a Mexican product. 

"Corona's story is a tale that reflects the spirit of the Mexican people," says Todd Hunter, co-chief creative officer of Observatory. "To tell it, we were inspired by a medium that has captured Mexican history for centuries—its art—and brought it to life through a beautiful stop-motion film." 

It is something to behold. Eight dioramas were built in all, shot in one continuous motion. Each phase of history blooms from the previous frame, moving us through the golden age of Mexican cinema to the birth of the Corona Caravan, which expanded Corona's reach and cultural impact across Mexico. Then we enter the '80s economic crisis and the brand's decision to export, spreading Corona northward and worldwide. 

The last chapter closes with the lesson inherent to this telling: Mexicans have a history of turning obstacles into opportunities.

Here's the making-of: 

Corona | The History of La Cerveza Más Fina BTS

"'La Mas Fina' means quality and craft," says Corona director Clarissa Pantoja, returning to the beer brand's tagline. "Everything we did in our campaign had to have the same craft as our beer."

Director Ménard worked with Nexus Studios for production and animation. It took 128 people to get it right over two months. Twenty-four images per second lent the handcrafted work movement. 

The visual universe is inspired by Mexican surrealist Pedro Friedeberg, whose patterns and distinctive vanishing points are renowned. He's responsible for designing the hand chair, which is what García Bernal is sitting in at the video's opening. (The show Arrested Development notably high-fived the hand chair, and its roots, in its own sidelong way.)

The sun, voiced by García Bernal, is also a Friedeberg shoutout. Different faceplates were created to facilitate the "replacement animation" technique required to synchronize its movements to his voice. 

See a slideshow here: 

Some 350 Corona bottle replicas were made and hand-painted, including the caps and printed labels. Each was filled with agave syrup to emulate the beer's distinctive shade. In total, 421 handmade miniatures were made, of which 71 were characters in the ad. 

Nexus designed all the character models, 3-D printed and painted by Arch Model Studios under the supervision of Andy Gent. (Their credits include Coraline, The Corpse Bride, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs.) Bridget Samuels created the score, interpreted by an orchestra of over 50 London musicians. 

Today, Corona is sold in 180 countries. It's the top beer import in the U.S., and No. 9 in the world. Regardless of who made it—bakers, immigrants, whoever—its longevity, success and creativity are a Mexican story first and foremost. 

"The thing that I connect with from this journey through the history of Mexico and Corona is the resilience of Mexicans," García Bernal reflects in the making-of. "It's interesting to see how this path was created, this journey was built little by little … I love it. I love that it's about history and ambition."

CREDITS

Client: Corona, Mexico
Title: The History of 'La Cerveza Mas Fina'

Corona
Chief Executive Officer: Carlos Lisboa
BU Chief of Marketing: Carlos Ranero
Brand Marketing Director: Clarissa Pantoja
Communications Manager: Alejandro Gershberg
Connections Director: Javier Garcia
Experiential Marketing Director: Rodolfo Vargas
Content Marketing Manager: Cesar Alcantara
PMO leader/ Strategist: Susana Medina

Agency
Agency: Observatory Marketing
Co-Chief Creative Officer: Todd Hunter
Creative Directors: Jessica Hundley, Nicole McDonald
Head of Production: Chris Totushek
Producer: Lula Fotis
Senior Brand Director: Erin Heyns
Brand Executive: Mack Montague

Production Company
Production Company:  Nexus Studios
ECD / Co-Founder: Chris O'Reilly
Director: Nicolas Ménard
Executive Producer: Luisa Murray
Producer: Jo Bierton
Production Manager: Rebecca Archer
Lead / Supervisor: Nico Domerego

Art Director: Jack Cunningham
Character Design: James Graham
Graphic Design: Cecilia Serafini
Design: Jamie Jones, Sarah Deane
Environment Design: Callum Strachan, Antoine Perez
Character Modellers: Andy Hickinbottom, Matt Clark 
3D Generalists: Heloise Courtois, Victori Jalabert, Maxime Dartois, Zach Pindolia, Jerémie Cottard, Chloe Plat

2D Animation: Isaac Holland, Duncan Gist
Director of Photography: Malcolm Hadley
Camera Assistant: Mark Swaffield
Gaffer: Tim O'connell
Moco: Stuart Galloway
Rigging: Justin Pentecost
Spark: Max Milner
Strike Spark: Daniel Ansell

Puppet and Set Fabrication: Andy Gent

Art Department: 
Marina Ralph
Mick Chippington
Josie Corben
Magda Madra
Sofia Serrano
Mark Fisher
Vaida Klimaviciute
Claudia Brignalezi
Angela Pang
Louise Pratt
Andrew Saunders
Tom James
Gavin Richards    
Claire Middleton
Claudia Brugnaletti
Jade Gerrard
Clea Raguideau
Angela Chorlton
Roy Bell
Annick Bosson
Beth Quinton
Fiona Stewart
Grant Humberstone
Ola Kucharska
Michael Nowacki
Mitch Barnes
Colin Armitage
Duncan Mude
Nadine Patterson
 
Practical Lighting: Gary Welch 
Runner: Chiara De Propis    
Stop Frame Lead Animator: Tobias Fouracre
Stop Frame Animators: Matthew Cooper, Max Martin
BTS Cameraman: Thomas Heleta, Mark Van Heusden
BTS Photographer: Jacob Robinson
First Aid: Darren Boyling
Post Production: Freefolk
Lead Flame Artist: Steve Murgatroyd
Flame Artists: Brandon Danowski, Andy Copping
Nuke Artist: Rob Sheridan
Colourist: Duncan Russell
Post Producer: Laura Ricketts
Shooting Studio: Black Island
Lighting Equipment: Panalux
Camera Equipment: Clapham Road Studios
Editor: David Slade
BTS Editor: Thomas Heleta, Michael Rohrbaugh
Assistant Editor: Bruno Collins
Music: Bridget Samuels

Sound Design and Mix: Barking Owl
Creative Director: Kelly Bayett
Producer: Ashley Benton
Sound Designer: Morgan Johnson
Mixer: Matt Keith

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Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is a founding contributor to Muse. She is also the co-founder of esports agency Hurrah.gg, and co-author of Generation Creation.